Physics of the Human Body

A.P. E1300y (APPH 1300y)
3.0 points (lecture course)

Prerequisites: Physics 1201, 1401 or 1601, Calculus I, First-term general chemistry
Corequisites: Physics 1202, 1402 or 1602, Calculus II, Second-term general chemistry (or equivalents)

This course satisfies the technical elective requirement for SEAS students.

Instructor: Professor Irving P. Herman
X4-4950, 905 Schapiro CEPSR,
Office hours: by appointment

Irving Herman and Assistant
Irving Herman and assistant for Physics of the Human Body.
(Herman is the one on your right.)

This course analyzes the human body from the basic principles of physics. Principles derived in freshman physics are applied directly or after modest extension. In each case a simple model of the body organ, property, or function is devised and then applied, sometimes using introductory calculus. This course is not targeted for prospective applied physics majors but to a wider audience, including prospective and current pre-med and biomedical engineering majors. Given the level of the treatment, it is suitable for freshmen and sophomores, as well as for upper classpeople in SEAS, CC, and Barnard.


Required: Notes, and Anatomy Chart.

Recommended: "Physics of the Body," by J. R. Cameron, J. G. Skofronick, and R. M. Grant, Medical Physics Publishing, 2nd edition, 1999.

Recommended: "Human Anatomy & Physiology," 5th edition, Elaine N. Marieb, published by Benjamin/Cummings. (While this book will not be used directly for class assignments, it provides additional information of interest to students considering a career in biomedical engineering or medicine.)

 Approximate Course Outline:
(with typical questions asked in the course)

Weeks 1-2: Forces in the body (statics) - Chapter 2 (in "Physics of the Body").
Why is it bad to bend your back when you lift objects?

Weeks 3-4: Forces in the body (dynamics) and the mechanics of motion (work), pressure - Chapter 2.
How fast can we throw a baseball?

Weeks 4-5: Materials properties, limits (bone breakage) - Chapter 3.
How are skin and bone different mechanically?

Week 5: Muscle mechanics (also the sense of touch) - Chapter 2.
How do muscles work?

Week 6: The energy balance in the body (intake, cooling by evaporation) - Chapter 4.
What happens if you eat too many donuts?

Week 6: Pressure effects (including kidneys) - Chapters 5 and 6.
How is pressure important in the body?

Weeks 7-8: Fluid dynamics of the heart (pump) and circulation - Chapter 8.
Why is our blood pressure what it is?

Week 9: Gas exchange and transport in the lungs - Chapter 7.
How do we breathe?

Week 10: Vibrations [waves in a chamber] (ear sensing, speaking-vocal box, cords) - Chapter 10.
What is the physics of hearing and speaking?

Week 11: Vision - Chapter 11.
What prescription do you need for your glasses or contact lenses?

Week 12: Electrical properties (currents, nerve transmission, cell membranes) and the development and sensing of magnetic fields (brain) - Chapter 9.
How do electrical signals propagate in nerves?

Week 13: The basics of equilibrium and regulatory control.
How does your body regulate temperature?

Course grade determined by: 1 Midterm + 1 Final + several Homework Assignments.